Skip to main content

Written Statements

Volume 691: debated on Thursday 18 March 2021

Written Statements

Thursday 18 March 2021

Cabinet Office

European Union (Withdrawal) Act and Common Frameworks Report

I am today laying before Parliament a report, “The European Union (Withdrawal) Act and Common Frameworks: 26 September 2020 to 25 December 2020”. I am laying this report because it is a legal requirement under the EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018 for quarterly reports to be made to Parliament on the progress of the work to develop common frameworks. The report is available on gov.uk and details the progress made between the UK Government and devolved Administrations regarding the development of common frameworks. This report details progress made during the 10th three-month reporting period, and sets out that no “freezing” regulations have been brought forward under section 12 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act. A copy of “The European Union (Withdrawal) Act and Common Frameworks: 26 September 2020 to 25 December 2020” report has been placed in the Libraries of both Houses. The publication of the report reflects the Government’s continued commitment to transparency.

[HCWS857]

COP26

COP26 Presidency: Governance, Structure and Parliamentary Accountability

Following the creation of a full-time COP26 President role, I wanted to update the House on the governance, structure and parliamentary accountability of the role.

COP26 is a UN conference hosted by the UK, in partnership with Italy, which will be held in Glasgow in November 2021. World leaders will attend the conference, with the aim to agree how to tackle the threat of global climate change and deliver a resilient, net zero economy that protects and values the natural world

The UK is a world leader on climate change. We were the first major economy to legislate for net zero by 2050. In November 2020, the Prime Minister set out our new nationally determined contribution, committing to reduce our emissions by at least 68% by 2030 on a 1990 baseline, and in December 2020 we published the UK’s first adaptation communication.

Ministerial team

The right hon. Lord Goldsmith, Minister for Pacific and the Environment, will be the COP26 spokesperson in the House of Lords. The Minister for Business, Energy and Clean Growth, my right hon. Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Anne-Marie Trevelyan), will also address COP26 questions in the House of Commons and is the UK international champion on adaptation and resilience for the COP26 presidency. My hon. Friend the Member for South Ribble (Katherine Fletcher) has been appointed as my Parliamentary Private Secretary.

Role of UN COP President

The COP President-designate is responsible within the UK for delivering the COP26 summit in Glasgow. Ahead of the summit I am engaging with the UNFCCC secretariat and the current COP President as they prepare the provisional negotiations agenda. I am working to increase ambition internationally, developing effective international relationships with countries, institutions, businesses and stakeholders to achieve the necessary commitments in advance of and at COP. I am regularly engaging with the members of the UNFCCC to understand their positions and work with them to reach consensus on the negotiations. I will continue my close engagement with a large number of civil society actors as we seek to deliver an inclusive COP.

With the will of all parties, I will formally become COP President during the opening ceremony of the Glasgow summit. At the summit, I will participate as COP President, under the authority of the COP and its 197 parties. I will lead the formal negotiations, preside over meetings and will facilitate proceedings in accordance with the COP’s draft rules of procedure. I will have oversight of the overall package of outcomes and will work closely with UNFCCC members to secure consensus. As COP President I will also lead the COP Bureau, which is an 11-member body that assists the President and supports the work of COP, for the duration of my term until COP27 in late 2022.

The Prime Minister has made the role full time and as a full member of the Cabinet. My Cabinet colleagues remain responsible for delivering on their respective policy responsibilities.

Delivering a successful outcome

At the Climate Ambition summit on 12 December 2020, I set out four clear objectives for the UK presidency.

To ask countries to commit to net zero by mid-century, building on the 70% of world GDP covered by net zero targets today. To set the path to this, countries are being asked to come forward with ambitious 2030 emissions reductions targets (known as NDCs) which align with net zero goals. We will also be looking to accelerate the phase-out of coal, encourage investment in renewables, halt fossil fuel subsidies and pick up the pace on electric vehicle roll out. All of these areas are critical to stop average global temperatures exceeding 1.5C.

To urgently protect and help adapt our communities and natural habitats from the destructive effects of climate change. This will involve enabling and encouraging countries affected by climate change to build defences, warning systems and resilient infrastructure to avoid loss of homes and livelihoods.

To increase funding to support these aims, making good on the $100 billion annual climate finance goal affirmed through the Paris agreement. We need to be in a position to unleash the trillions in private and public finance to meet global net zero.

To close off the outstanding elements of the Paris rulebook, and accelerate delivery of the Paris goals through collaboration between Governments, businesses and civil society.

We will deliver these objectives through a major international engagement programme. I have briefed all UN member states three times and have personally engaged with over 50 countries. In the last month I have visited Ethiopia, Gabon, Egypt, Nigeria, India, Nepal, Belgium and France, and have spoken to representatives from a wide range of other countries and organisations, including the United States and China and hosted virtual roundtables and engaged with civil society groups.

Parliamentary scrutiny and engagement

There will be regular oral questions, which commenced on 24 February. And written questions can be submitted to the COP26 President.

There will be full Select Committee scrutiny of the role. A BEIS Select Committee session was held on 19 January. The Chairs of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Environmental Audit, Science and Technology, Foreign Affairs, International Development, Treasury, Transport, Scottish Affairs, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and Liaison Committees have come together informally as a “committee on COP26” which is an initiative I welcome and am committed to appearing in front of them alongside my ministerial colleagues, who will also be able to answer questions on their respective policy responsibilities.

My ministerial team and I will send a regular newsletter to colleagues in both Houses. I have agreed a programme of engagement activity with the chairs of the climate all-party parliamentary groups.

We will be providing a digital toolkit to Members in due course to support them to engage constituents in the Together for Our Planet campaign. We will also be working with partners to engage schools in COP26, including providing a tailored toolkit.

A range of opportunities are available for Members and their constituents to get involved at COP26 itself. These include hosting events, creative installations and exhibitions within UK Government managed spaces.

We also expect there will be a range of fringe events and activities across the city of Glasgow and throughout the UK organised by stakeholders, civil society organisations and businesses.

Domestic and devolved Administration engagement

We are working with the Scottish Government, the Welsh Government and the Northern Ireland Executive to ensure an inclusive and ambitious summit for the whole of the UK. All parts of the UK will have important roles to play in ensuring the summit’s success.

I have invited climate change Ministers from the Scottish Government, the Welsh Government and the Northern Ireland Executive to participate in a regular devolved Administrations group to ensure effective engagement and collaboration on COP26 in support of the delivery of an inclusive and welcoming COP26 representative of the whole of the UK.

I also chair the COP26 UK Mayors’ and Regions Advisory Council with mayors and council leaders from across the UK, including Glasgow, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast. In addition to ongoing engagement with stakeholders across the UK, to ensure an inclusive, whole of society COP26, that is representative of all of the UK in Glasgow.

We have launched the Together for our Planet campaign which will raise awareness and understanding of COP26 and the work the UK is doing to combat climate change. The campaign aims to drive awareness and create opportunities for people across the UK to participate in the run-up to COP26.

COP Unit governance

The Prime Minister chairs the Climate Action Strategy Cabinet Committee (CAS), which determines the UK’s overarching climate strategy both domestically and internationally. I continue to chair the Climate Action Implementation Cabinet Committee (CAI), which supports the CAS to operationalise the Government’s climate strategy.

I am supported by the COP26 unit which has over 200 posts and is based in the Cabinet Office. The COP unit team brings together civil servants from across Whitehall and external expertise. International engagement, co-ordinated by the COP26 team in co-operation with the FCDO, takes place across all Departments and by all Ministers with an interest in the cross-cutting campaigns and our COP objectives, as well as by the Prime Minister.

As set out above, the regular processes are in place to ensure parliamentary scrutiny and support towards delivery of COP26.

Progress so far

Reducing emissions: countries representing around 65% of global CO2 emissions and around 70% of the world’s economy have now committed to reaching net zero emissions or carbon neutrality. When the UK took the role of incoming COP presidency in December 2019, coverage was just 20% of global emissions and 26% of world GDP. On 12 December, over 90 countries, businesses, sectors, cities, including 75 world leaders, attended the Climate Ambition summit, co-hosted with the UN and France in partnership with Italy and Chile. At the summit 45 leaders highlighted plans for new and more ambitious NDCs (covering 71 countries including all EU member states) and 24 countries announced new commitments, strategies or plans to reach net zero or carbon neutrality. The summit delivered real steps forward—for example Colombia committed to an impressive 51% emissions reduction target; and Pakistan announced a moratorium on new coal plants.

On helping protect communities and natural habitats from the impact of climate change: at the CAS, 20 countries put forward plans for protecting their economies and communities from the impact of climate change. On 25 January we launched the Adaptation Action Coalition to bring together countries to identify the solutions, technologies and resources needed to protect people and nature as the planet warms. Action on nature is at the heart of our COP presidency. At the UN General Assembly in September 2020 the Prime Minister signed the leaders’ pledge for nature committing leaders to take 10 urgent actions to put nature on a path to recovery by 2030. The UK played a key role in pioneering and negotiating the pledge, and which now has over 80 countries signed up. On 2 February 2021 we launched the forest, agriculture and commodity trade (FACT) dialogue, which will bring together key countries exporting agricultural products and the countries consuming these products to agree global principles and a roadmap of actions to make global supply chains process greener and more sustainable, tackling one of the primary drivers of nature loss.

On increasing climate finance: there is an urgent need to get more finance flowing to support swift climate action. Developed countries must meet and surpass the $100 billion of climate finance commitment, matching UK ambition to double UK ICF to at least £11.6 billion between 2021 and 2025. Private finance is also key. So far we have seen major asset owners, representing over $5 trillion, and asset managers, representing over $9 trillion, commit to net zero targets by 2050. Climate-related financial disclosures are increasing and jurisdictions in Brazil, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Switzerland are taking action to make disclosure mandatory, complementing the UK’s announcement for a pathway to mandatory disclosure across the economy by 2025.

On making progress on the outstanding elements of the Paris rulebook, and accelerating delivery of the Paris goals: we have been convening UNFCCC members in discussions to lay the groundwork for the negotiations, and we will be hosting, alongside Chile, a series of monthly multilateral consultations. More broadly, we have built partnerships to increase international collaboration on key issues, establishing the Energy Transition Council and Zero Emissions Vehicles Transition Council, as well as working through existing coalitions: the Powering Past Coal Alliance has grown to 114 members covering 20% of OECD coal power capacity.

I look forward to engaging with you and continuing to update you over the coming months on the road to COP26.

[HCWS858]

Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Notification to Parliament of a Contingent Liability: Indemnification to CGI IT UK Ltd

In line with our emergency response for nuclear incidents obligations, my Department has been developing a new software application to support the management of nuclear emergencies. The new system will replace two ageing legacy systems managed by BEIS and MOD.

My Department is procuring application management and support (AMS) services presently. We intend to indemnify the selected supplier in respect of liabilities that they may incur if employees of the former supplier of these services bring employment law claims against them in relation to the application of the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006 (TUPE).

In relation to this, I have today laid before Parliament a departmental minute giving notice of the Department incurring this contingent liability in the form of indemnity protection provided to the selected supplier.

We believe it is appropriate to incur this contingent liability, to ensure that the new software system can go live without any delay. We consider the provision of this liability as the best value for money option to ensure the new service is available.

[HCWS854]

Post Office: Horizon Historical Shortfall Scheme

Problems with the Post Office’s Horizon IT system have affected the lives and livelihoods of many postmasters.

Over the years, the Horizon accounting system recorded shortfalls in cash in branches. The Post Office at the time thought that some of these were caused by postmasters, and this led to dismissals, recovery of losses by Post Office Ltd and, in some instances, criminal prosecutions.

A group of 555 of these postmasters, led by former postmaster Alan Bates, brought a group litigation claim against the Post Office in 2016. It is clear from the findings of Mr Justice Fraser, just how wrong the Post Office was in its relationship with postmasters and that there were clear failings with the Horizon system.

The Government pay tribute to those postmasters and colleagues across the House who continue to shine a spotlight on such an important issue.

The Post Office reached a full and final settlement with claimants in the group litigation in December 2019 and apologised for its past failings. That settlement was an important step towards addressing the wrongs of the past, but it was only the start of a long journey for the Post Office to repair and strengthen the relationship with postmasters.

As part of the settlement the Post Office agreed to set up the historical shortfall scheme. The scheme was open to current and former postmasters who did not participate in the group litigation claim against the Post Office and did not have a criminal conviction, but who may have experienced and repaid Horizon shortfalls. It is therefore an important step in making sure that all those who were affected have the opportunity to seek resolution.

The scheme closed in August 2020 and received over 2,400 applications. This number was higher than the Post Office had anticipated when the scheme was established. All of these applications of course need to be properly assessed.

The Post Office is committed to the successful delivery and timely completion of the historical shortfall scheme. However, the cost of the scheme is beyond what the business can afford.

The Government will therefore provide sufficient financial support to the Post Office to ensure that the scheme can proceed, based on current expectations of the likely cost. The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is providing this support in his capacity as sole shareholder in the Post Office.

There are two reasons this is being done.

First, we must ensure that those postmasters who have applied to this scheme are able to seek redress. By supporting the scheme, we will make it possible for these postmasters to be fairly compensated.

Secondly, we must protect the post office network. As we have seen through the pandemic, it provides essential services to citizens across the country.

Without this support the Post Office would be unable to deliver fully the historical shortfall scheme and it would be unable to continue to operate its network as we know it today. This is a critical intervention that benefits current and former postmasters and the millions of customers that rely on their local post office branch.

The final cost of delivering the historical shortfall scheme will be determined over the coming months, including through the work of an independent panel. This support will ensure that postmasters are appropriately compensated, however we will not spend more of taxpayers’ money than is necessary to ensure the scheme meets its objectives.

The Post Office is rightly contributing what it can from its own resources to the delivery of the scheme.

While it is important that the scheme remains independent of Government it is also important that this shareholder support delivers value for money. The Government are confident that the controls in place in the design of the historical shortfall scheme will make sure this is the case.

The Post Office will make the first offers to applicants shortly. However, given the number of applications it will take time to work through all the claims that the Post Office has received. The Government would therefore like to thank postmasters in advance for their patience and reassure them that their claims will be properly handled.

The Horizon dispute has affected the lives of too many people and supporting the scheme operated by the Post Office will help them right the wrongs of the past.

We must also ensure that a situation like this can never be allowed to occur again. That is why this Government have asked Sir Wyn Williams to lead the Post Office Horizon IT inquiry.

Sir Wyn’s inquiry will work to fully understand what happened, gather available evidence and ensure lessons have been learnt so that this cannot occur again. It will also look specifically at whether the historical shortfall scheme is being properly delivered. The Government look forward to receiving Sir Wyn’s report in the summer.

[HCWS853]

Audit and Corporate Governance Reforms

Today the Government are publishing their ambitious plans to strengthen the UK’s audit, company reporting and corporate governance framework, “Restoring trust in audit and corporate governance”, which I will lay in the House. These proposals will ensure the UK’s markets are at the cutting edge of global best practice.

British business is built on trust, so it is vital that our leading companies can command the confidence of the financial markets, investment community and wider public as the UK recovers from the effects of covid-19. Our comprehensive package of reforms will strengthen reporting, audit and governance in the UK’s largest companies. The proposals will help cement the UK’s position as a world-leading destination for investment by helping to ensure that our leading companies are governed responsibly and that investors, creditors, workers and others have access to the information they need.

Our proposals respond to the independent reviews led by Sir John Kingman, Sir Donald Brydon and the Competition and Markets Authority, and I would like to thank each of them for their valuable contributions. Today’s publication sets out a balanced and wide-ranging package of reforms which will lay the foundations for British companies to build back stronger as the UK recovers from the effects of covid-19 and in the wake of recent corporate failures. Restoring business confidence, but also people’s confidence in business, is crucial to repairing our economy and building back better from the pandemic.

In particular, the Government’s proposals include:

supporting directors of large companies in planning for long-term success through annual resilience statements: setting out how they are mitigating short and long-term risks, for the benefit not only of shareholders but also of local communities, suppliers, customers and the wider UK economy;

making directors of the country’s biggest companies more accountable when they breach their duties, with the prospect of fines or bans only when there are serious failings, such as misleading accounts or hiding information from auditors. This measure is targeted at the very largest companies in the UK, not start-ups and small businesses, and would not affect the vast majority of directors. Instead, it reflects the level of responsibility that comes with a board position in the largest companies;

addressing “rewards for failure” through mechanisms to claw bonuses back following misconduct or management failures;

measures to unleash competition and strengthen governance in the audit market, overseen by a new regulator, to increase choice and drive up resilience;

recognising the economic importance of the largest privately-owned companies by ensuring they meet the highest governance and reporting standards;

making company reporting more transparent and informative: so that they pay out dividends only when they have sufficient reserves, and enabling companies to have a wider range of metrics audited, for example climate disclosures.

These proposals will all be backed by the creation of a strong and independent statutory authority for audit, corporate reporting and governance. Replacing the Financial Reporting Council, the new regulator will be given much stronger powers to enforce standards. We also propose that it will have the power to impose an operational split between the audit and non-audit functions of accountancy firms, to reduce the risk of any conflicts of interest that may affect the standard of audit they provide.

The UK is consistently placed as one of the leading destinations for foreign investment in Europe and around the world. These reforms will sustain and build on the UK’s position, and reinforce the Government’s wider work to ensure the UK remains a world-class destination for investment.

The reforms cover the whole of the UK since, although company law is devolved in Northern Ireland, to date the Northern Ireland Executive has preferred to align with Great Britain in this area. The Government will also continue to work closely with the devolved Administrations in Wales and Scotland in developing the final provisions.

In light of the challenging circumstances for companies, the Government’s consultation period will run for 16 weeks. The Government then intend to bring forward legislation when parliamentary time allows. We will implement reforms in a proportionate way that does not prove burdensome to business, for example considering a limited exemption for newly listed firms from the new requirements.

I will place a copy of the three supplementary publications, including an impact assessment of the proposed measures, in the Libraries of both Houses.

[HCWS852]

Treasury

UK Counter-Terrorist Asset-Freezing Regime: 1 October 2020 to 31 December 2020

Under the Terrorist Asset-Freezing etc. Act 2010 (TAFA 2010), the Treasury was required to prepare a quarterly report regarding its exercise of the powers conferred on it by part 1 of TAFA 2010. This written statement satisfies that requirement for the period 1 October 2020 to 31 December 2020.

This report also covers the UK’s implementation of the UN’s ISIL (Da’esh) and Al-Qaida asset-freezing regime (ISIL-AQ), and the operation of the EU’s asset-freezing regime under EU regulation (EC) 2580/2001 concerning external terrorist threats to the EU (also referred to as the CP 931 regime).

Under the ISIL-AQ asset-freezing regime, the UN has responsibility for designations and the Treasury, through the Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation (OFSI), has responsibility for licensing and compliance with the regime in the UK under the ISIL (Da’esh) and Al-Qaida (Asset-Freezing) Regulations 2011.

Under EU regulation 2580/2001, the EU has responsibility for designations and while the UK was a member of the EU and throughout the transition period OFSI had responsibility for licensing and compliance with the regime in the UK under part 1 of TAFA 2010.

EU regulation (2016/1686) was implemented on 22 September 2016. This permits the EU to make autonomous Al-Qaida and ISIL (Da’esh) listings.

UK sanctions following the end of the transition period

Since the transition period ended at 11:00 pm on 31 December 2020, the UK no longer applies EU sanctions regulations and all sanctions regimes will be implemented through UK regulations. The Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018 (the Sanctions Act) provides the legal framework for the UK to impose, update and lift sanctions autonomously. Information on the three new counter-terrorism sanctions regimes can be found via this link:

https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/uk-counter-terrorism-sanctions

These new sanction regimes ensure that the UK implements its international obligations under UN Security Council resolution 1373 and give effect to the UK’s obligations under UN Security Council resolution 2368.

This is the final quarterly report to Parliament on the UK’s terrorist asset-freezing regime.

The attached tables set out the key asset-freezing activity in the UK during the quarter.

Attachments can be viewed online at: http://www. parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2021-03-18/HCWS862/.

[HCWS862]

Transfer of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development Contingent Capital Liability

I am today laying a departmental minute to advise that HM Treasury (HMT) intends—subject to the standard procedure for notification to Parliament of the assumption of contingent liabilities as described below—to transfer the contingent liability of £1,738,000,000 with respect to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO).

This transfer provides HMT with financial and accounting responsibility for the EBRD to match HMT’s longstanding policy responsibilities. HMT is not incurring or undertaking a new contingent liability—the EBRD’s standing contingent liability is swapping from the FCDO to the HMT balance sheet. This will not produce a net budget impact on either Department’s balance sheet as it is budget neutral and will appear as nil in the 2021-22 main estimates. The EBRD’s shareholding is held by the UK Crown, meaning it is at HMG’s discretion to determine which Department holds the EBRD’s callable liability.

The EBRD is a multilateral development bank (MDB) where HM Government (HMG) has an 8.52% capital shareholding. The Chancellor is UK governor at the EBRD, and the Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Secretary is the UK alternate governor. The UK’s overall capital contribution totals £2,300,000,000, of which previous payments have made up the 20% “paid-in” capital contribution requiring a cash transfer. The other 80%, £1,738,000,000, is “callable capital”—the EBRD has the right to call for payment for these shares if there is a crisis affecting the bank’s assets or liabilities. No MDB has ever issued a call to payment on callable capital shares.

Although the EBRD has the right to call for payment of this callable capital incurred when the initial capital instalment was paid, no such instance has occurred in any MDB in the past. EBRD has a AAA credit rating, with a diversified portfolio of investments across a large range of countries. As of June 2020, the EBRD held €29.8 billion in equity (including shareholders’ subscribed capital) and €11.6 billion in its reserves. Again, the transfer of the contingent liability from FCDO to HMT swaps the liability between balance sheets but does not incur or undertake further liabilities. If the liability were to be called, provision for any payment will be sought through the normal supply procedure.

[HCWS860]

Health and Social Care

Independent Review into Do Not Attempt Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation Orders

The Government are announcing today the publication of the Care Quality Commission’s (CQC) report into the use of do not attempt cardiopulmonary resuscitation (DNACPR) decisions taken during the covid-19 pandemic. We would like first to thank the CQC for their swift work on the review, as well as the people, their families, representatives and staff who shared their experiences on such an important and complex issue. A copy of the report is available at: https://www.cqc.org.uk/.

The report follows concerns raised at the beginning of the pandemic around the use of “blanket” DNACPR decisions across groups of people, particularly our most vulnerable. The Care Quality Commission has investigated these concerns.

Sensitive and well communicated DNACPR decisions can be an important part of patient care and end of life experience. It is essential, therefore, that good practice is embedded across the health and care system to build understanding of the role good DNACPR decisions play in high-quality personalised care.

We are pleased to see the numerous examples of good practice, across both health and social care settings, highlighted by the report. We heard about experiences of people and their families seeing health and care providers go above and beyond to overcome the challenges posed by the pandemic.

However, such good practice was not true everywhere. The report tells the stories of people who were denied the opportunity to discuss their DNACPR decisions, as well as of families and carers feeling unable to support their loved ones or challenge DNACPR decisions. This is completely unacceptable.

Inappropriate or “blanket” application of DNACPRs decisions are wholly unacceptable, even in pressurised circumstances. All decisions about DNACPR must, in all circumstances, be made on an individual basis according to need.

We must be able to ensure that people feel equal partners in their care and that staff across all care settings feel well equipped to hold these difficult conversations. We must have processes to ensure that people feel supported to speak up when they have concerns. We support the recommendations of the CQC, including ensuring that staff have the training needed to be able to support people with DNACPR decisions; that there is national guidance and system level oversight; and that people are well informed of what good practice looks like, what their rights are and for DNACPR decisions to be considered as part of good end of life care.

The Government are determined to tackle bad practice and welcome the report’s recommendation for a ministerial oversight group to drive progress on this important issue. We are committed to driving forward the delivery of these recommendations and ultimately ensure everyone experiences the compassionate care they deserve.

[HCWS859]

Home Department

Third Annual Report of the Biometrics and Forensics Ethics Group

My noble Friend the Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) has today made the following written ministerial statement:

I am pleased to announce the publication of the third annual report of the Biometrics and Forensic Ethics Group on 18 March 2021. The group provides Ministers with independent advice on matters relating to ethical issues in forensic science and biometrics and considers issues in data ethics.

I would like to thank the group for its advice concerning the use and retention of biometric identifiers and for its advice on the development and testing of biometric technologies.

The group has provided advice and guidance on issues such as: retention of additional DNA profile information on the national DNA database, and a trial on the use of near-match reporting; consideration of the ethical issues in genetic genealogy and massively parallel sequencing approaches for criminal investigations; and recommendations for leaflets to inform the public on issues relating to burial at sea and deletion of custody images.

The Biometrics and Forensics Ethics Group annual report can be viewed on the website of the group at: https://www. gov.uk/government/organisations/biometrics-and-forensics-ethics-group and a copy will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

[HCWS856]

Refugee Protection and Integration

Global Britain has a proud record of helping those fleeing persecution, oppression or tyranny from around the world. In addition to providing £10 billion each year to support people in need through overseas aid, the UK is a global leader in refugee resettlement. Between 2016 and 2019 we resettled more refugees from outside Europe than any EU member state.

In 2015, we committed to resettle 20,000 of the most vulnerable refugees who fled the brutal conflict in Syria through the vulnerable persons resettlement scheme (VPRS). This included people requiring urgent medical treatment, survivors of violence and torture, and women and children at risk.

Today we are delighted to be able to confirm that we have now met that commitment. We have resettled 20,080 vulnerable refugees across the UK since September 2015.

In total, this means that, across all Government-funded resettlement schemes, more than 25,000 refugees have been resettled in the UK over the past six years, around half of whom were children.

This achievement has been made possible thanks to the outstanding work and dedication of many partners, including non-governmental organisations in the UK and international partners, community and faith groups, local authorities, devolved Administrations and individual members of the public. I am truly grateful for this collaborative effort.

Resettlement is vital to safely and legally provide a path to settlement for vulnerable people fleeing persecution and it is right that we continue to offer safe pathways for those in need of protection. The launch of our new global UK resettlement scheme will now build on the success of previous schemes and we will continue our proud record of resettling refugees who need our help from around the world.

We want refugees in the UK to have the freedom to succeed and that means access to the tools they need to become fully independent, provide for themselves and their families and the ability to contribute and integrate into the economic and cultural life of the UK.

That is why today I have also announced £14 million of funding to help newly granted refugees to integrate in the UK. The £14 million fund will pilot new approaches across the country to support newly granted refugees to learn English, move into work, access housing and build links in their local communities. Lessons learned from these pilots will inform future support available to all refugees.

This Government continue to step forward to provide help to those facing oppression or tyranny. This year we have also introduced a new pathway to citizenship for British national (overseas) status holders and their family members who are facing draconian new security laws in Hong Kong, which may see an estimated 320,000 people come to the UK over the next five years.

We have also enabled over 29,000 close relatives of refugees to join them in the UK through refugee family reunion in the last five years.

Looking ahead, as we reform the asylum system, global Britain will continue its proud tradition of providing safe haven to those in need through safe and legal routes.

[HCWS855]

Housing, Communities and Local Government

Rough Sleeping Accommodation Programme Funding

Today, the Government are launching the next phase of the rough sleeping accommodation programme. Councils across England are invited to bid for a share of funding totalling £212 million for 2021-22 to 2023-24 to deliver move-on homes for rough sleepers. These homes will be a national asset to support vulnerable people, and high-quality support services will be provided alongside to help vulnerable people move on from rough sleeping.

This funding is part of the £433 million rough sleeping accommodation programme available over the lifetime of this Parliament to deliver 6,000 new homes for rough sleepers, announced by the Government in May 2020. This represents the largest ever investment in move-on accommodation. Today’s announcement builds on the first year of the programme, in which the Government allocated more than £150 million for move-on accommodation for rough sleepers, as well as investing in high-quality support over the next three years, so that vulnerable people helped through the programme can maintain their tenancies and move on from rough sleeping.

Further information on future years of the programme is available in the fund’s prospectus, available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/rough-sleeping-accommodation-programme-2021-24.

The Government have made clear that no one should be without a roof over their head, which is why we have committed to end rough sleeping. That is also why, including this programme, we have spent £700 million in 2020-21 and are spending over £750 million over the next financial year to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping.

This programme builds on the Government’s unprecedented Everyone In initiative, which has so far supported 37,000 individuals during the pandemic, with more than 26,000 already successfully moved on to longer-term accommodation. Together with our pledge to fully enforce the Homelessness Reduction Act, this funding demonstrates our commitment to making the most of this opportunity to transform the lives of the some of the most vulnerable in society, and to ending rough sleeping for good.

[HCWS861]